Wayward Thoughts | Author Denise McGee

One year later

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Dec 062015

A lot has happened this past year, but it can be summed up in five words: I went back to work.

In January of this year, I started a full-time position in a call center. The work itself isn’t too bad, I’m good at it at least which makes me less likely to be screamed at. And yes, I have gotten many calls with screamers. Why grown adults think screaming like a toddler will magically allow me to fix their problem instantaneously is beyond me.


Besides the screamers, and the hour long commute in Atlanta traffic, the worst part is actually…working. I was a stay at home mom for 16 years. And while that was work, too, my schedule was my own. My job even tells me when I’m allowed use the bathroom. It’s like being in kindergarten again, but without the nap time.

In addition to working, I’m still in college. Juggling the two, plus family has been….challenging. Needless to say, not much writing has gotten done. I’m starting to feel I have gotten a handle on it all again and while I haven’t actually written much, I never stopped thinking about it. Lately I’ve even been busting out some of my writing theory books and brushing up the outline for Full Moon Mix-Up. Hopefully, I can get it finished and out for consumption soon.

This image shows a generated crying wolf with moon

Full Moon Mix-Up cover

Wanting vs Needing – changing how you focus on goals

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Nov 142014

Waxing a little philosophical today.

When you think in terms of “I want to” instead of “I have to” your whole attitude changes. It releases stress and makes you less likely to procrastinate on things you don’t really like to do. It’s all part of the ‘keeping your eye on the prize’ way of thinking.

I want a clean kitchen. Washing the pots and pans (one of my least favorite things) is part of that.
I want to publish this story. I want to write every day so I can finish it.
I want to graduate from college. This class is a step in that direction.

You don’t have to love all the little steps needed to reach your goals, but if you keep what you want firmly in mind it helps with the motivation to push through and succeed.

Oct 092014

I’ve been reading Alexandra Sokoloff’s blog series on Nanowrimo prep and the very first exercise completely threw me.

(from her blog)
ASSIGNMENT: List ten books and films that are similar to your own story in structure and/or genre (at least five books and three movies if you’re writing a book, at least five movies if you’re writing a script.).

I had no issue coming up with a dozen movies but the books? I came up with three. THREE! Shameful, right?

Well, technically they’re all series, but I should be able to do better than that. I am, afterall, a reader as well as a writer. I should be able to name more than a measly three books.

The basic problem, as I see it anyway, is that my reading tastes are changing and I haven’t found that reading niche that excites me yet.

So here’s my movie and book list (no judgments). I’m looking for suggestions on reads that’ll compliment it.

Jurassic Park
National Treasure
Apollo 13
How to Train Your Dragon
Princess Bride
Guardians of the Galaxy
Live Free and Die Hard

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry
Red Heart of Jade by Marjorie Liu
Night Game by Christine Feehan

The last two books have lots of sex scenes, but I’m not interested in those so much as the stories they told. I like quirky. I like humor. I’m a sucker for a guy in uniform. I like action. I like supernatural. So hit me with your best shots. I’m open to something new.

One Small Touch Availability

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Aug 092014

In case you missed it, and it would have been easy to do, I’m pleased to announce that One Small Touch in ebook form is no longer exclusively available on Amazon. It’s now available wherever ebooks are sold. If you like a vendor, and don’t see it listed, please let me know.

Barnes & Noble

As always, One Small Touch is also available in paperback everywhere. Just ask for a special order at your local bookstore or find it online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book-a-Million or any other online bookstore.

Why I love books on writing theory

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Jul 022014

I may be odd, but I love reading books on writing theory. Part of this is because I have a need to know the ‘why’ of things. When I wrote One Small Touch is was completely by instinct. I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life and the ebb and flow of a story apparently ingrained itself on my subconscious enough that I was able to pull off a credible book.

But when it came time for my second story, I wanted to know why I wrote the way I did. Why elements worked together the way they did and why readers responded to certain things and not others. I also wanted to know how I could improve myself. How to make each successive story better than the last.

So I’ve spent the better part of the last year not only studying for college, but studying writing.

The best writing book I’ve read so far is Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham. It really lays out what makes a scene stick with a reader and what logical order a scene follows. You can bend these ‘rules’ but readers subconsciously know something is off and you can lose their interest fast.

The best ‘get your head out of your ass’ book is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. If you need to understand WHY you self-sabotage, this is the book for you.

The best all-encompassing book is David Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines. This book covers the psychology of your characters, emotional beats, settings, viewpoints, conflicts and a host of other elements. It then takes all those elements and teaches you how to tie them all together in one neat outline shaped bow in a rather unique way.

The best ‘where do I start’ book is Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell. It changed how I looked at writing completely.

There were a lot of other great books I’ve read; Writing Thrillers by Michael Newton, any of the Write it Right series by Tristi Pinkston, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors by Alexandra Sokoloff, but the ones listed above stuck with me the most.

6 Things You Never Knew About Vampires

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Jun 282014
  1. Stories about vampires have existed for a very long time. The Ancient Greek and Romans, Mesopotamians and even Hebrews had tales about demons or spirits who behaved much like the mythos of vampires today.

  2. Fangs weren’t prevalent in early vampire folklore.

  3. Placing seeds or sand on the ground near a grave of a suspected vampire was supposed to keep them occupied until morning since they were apparently OCD and felt compelled to count each grain.

  4. Folkloric vampires were not vulnerable to sunlight. They preferred the night but could move about by day without suffering.

  5. Silver not only affects werewolves but it is said to be able to harm vampires, too. Silver crosses were doubly effective.

  6. Contrary to the pasty vampires of the movies, originally it was said you could spot a vampire by its ruddy complexion. Suspected vampires had their graves desecrated and corpses with flushed skin or rosy cheeks were either beheaded or staked through the heart.

Mar 122014

I didn’t go to college after high school, although I took all the college prep classes. There were many reasons for this, chief among them a well-meaning but ineffectual guidance counselor with a cool new toy.

He plunked me down at a computer (with dual floppies – this was 1985) and had me run a search for colleges I might like. Once I had excitedly narrowed down my choices to my top 3 it started asking questions about my parents finances that I had no real knowledge of. At the time all I knew was that my dad, a welder, hadn’t had steady work since the iron belt became the rust belt, and my mom worked in the kitchen of a nursing home to pay the bills. So, I guessed on the answers.

You can imagine my shock when this shiny new program informed me that my parents would be expected to contribute $30,000 a year to my education. They didn’t even make that a year. I went through the process again, choosing different colleges, and changing my parents’ info. Same result every time.

What I didn’t understand at the time was this cool new program was extremely limited. It only had Ivy League colleges and was designed for families that could afford them. It also made no mention of financial aid, scholarships, grants or any other forms of financing. All I knew that all my dreams of going to college were just that…dreams…because my parents weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination.

So in typical ‘me’ fashion, I gave up. I sank into a depression, and my grades fell through the floor. This was complicated further by the death of both my paternal grandparents within a couple months of each other. At one point I even contemplated ending it all. Afterall, if I had no future what was the point of sticking around for it. I didn’t really want to die, however, so in a cry for help I wrote the following poem for an English assignment.

the tree is dead inside
not dead dying
dead uncaring
there is no hope
and no tomorrow

Naturally, this resulted in my being pulled into the office for a talk. I opened up enough to my teacher that she helped with some of my depression, but I never did tell her the real reason for it. I let her believe it was too much death in a short span of time, and she helped me with a little grief therapy. It wasn’t everything I needed, but it was enough to keep me going.

Fast forward nearly 30 years, past working 10 years at a library, getting married, and having children. In short…living. Along the way I finally learned about financial aid and ways of paying for school that my guidance counselor never explained aside from a pro forma checklist we filled out. I yearned to go back to school but the time was never right. After a while I started thinking maybe I was too old now, but my maternal grandmother was always in the back of my mind when that thought came to call. She graduated college at 56. She didn’t let a little thing like age stop her from doing what she wanted.

So, last August I abruptly decided it was time. I was going back to school. The kids were old enough I didn’t need to constantly supervise them. I wasn’t working outside the home. And my writing was something I could work around.

I contacted Southern New Hampshire University thinking I could start in January. That would give me time to fill out the paperwork, go through admissions, and get my financial aid in order. I was wrong. All the long awaited pieces of my educational journey fell into place and within 5 days of applying I was taking my first class. It was a whirlwind of fate that still shocks me at times.

So here I am in my third term, pursuing a double major of History and Accounting/Finance. And while I may complain about some of the papers I have to write, I’m loving every moment of it.

Whatever your dream, it’s never to late. Reach out and make them happen. You won’t be sorry.

Valerie Douglas, the Coming Storm

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Jan 102014


Welcome to Valerie Douglas’ The Coming Storm Blog tour.  Check back to The Finishing Fairies daily to find out where she’ll appear next.


Excerpt from The Coming Storm


At the end of the causeway she turned toward the Hunter’s and Woodsmen’s camp which was nestled between the castle and the river itself. Some were about the chores that such folk needed to do when they were at home – mending tack, honing weapons or training new recruits.

“Hai, Ailith, fairest of the fair, sweet rose of Riverford, a delight to the eye and the heart,” a voice caroled. “Were it not for my own fair lady, my heart would be yours.”

Restraining a smile and rolling her eyes, Ailith turned in the direction of the voice.

“Oh, Gwillim, go on with you,” she said in mild exasperation.

The leader of the Hunters grinned, sweeping off his hat in an elaborate bow, difficult to do in the saddle. Tall, lean and rangy, as happily mated as any she knew, Gwillim flattered every woman he met, but her in particular, teasing her as always. She was neither fair nor anyone’s definition of a sweet rose. Which he well knew.

Well used to it, the other Hunters in the party laughed or grinned.

“Ah, were I not mated…,” he began.

“Leave off, Gwillim!” she exclaimed, restraining a grin.

She was blushing. Again.

Between the others, coin changed hands.

Sighing with resignation, she guided her horse to Gwillim’s side.

“Really Gwillim?” she said, but he simply smiled and finally she had to laugh. “All right, are we about this?”

With a quick glance at the others, he nodded, grinned unrepentantly, and led them out to the north and east, sobering somewhat as he got down to business.

“The reports we have,” he said, “now speak of more than one boggin. So you know.”

He would’ve briefed the others as they waited.

Frowning a little, she nodded acknowledgement. “My father pointed out you were off after a boggart just last week.”

She hadn’t ridden out with them then, having been busy in the town hearing a complaint between two merchants. It had been a tedious and foolish argument, but difficult to find common ground between the two to settle. If she’d had to choose between the two, listening to the querulous people involved or hunting the notably vicious boggart, she’d have chosen the boggart over the boredom.

Gwillim said grimly, “Aye and a nasty one it was. We chased it back into the borderlands, but it gave us a difficult time all the same. It turned on us, going after Vi’s horse. She nearly went down.”

Startled, Ailith said, “A boggart? That’s not like a boggart.”

Mean and vicious, roughly man-shaped and going about on two legs, a boggart would attack a lone man with no fear but run from a group unless it was cornered or in a pack. Cornering a boggart was a highly dangerous thing to do, as they were quick, had nasty claws, and even nastier teeth. Gwillim was too canny to corner a boggart in such a way it would turn on them without having everyone’s bows at ready. A dozen arrows would’ve pierced the thing before it could have turned on them. It had turned on them, then, during the chase.

“Well I know it. Nothing’s like anything of late,” Gwillim said, worriedly. “Such things are becoming common. I don’t like it, but I can put no name to it.”

Ailith didn’t like it either, something about it made her uneasy. It seemed as though, lately, a great many things left her unsettled and she didn’t know why.

Of a lighter and merrier nature than either of her parents, such disturbance wasn’t her nature. As with her misgivings over the man who’d ridden in that day. There was nothing overt to give her pause, yet she’d taken it. That bothered her. Still, there was little she could do about it, save wait to see if a reason presented itself. For now, she had boggins to consider.



Elon of Aerilann, Elven advisor to the High King of Men, helped negotiate the treaty between Elves, Dwarves and men. He suddenly finds that fragile truce threatened from without by an unknown enemy and from within by old hatreds and prejudice. With the aid of his true-friend Colath, the wizard Jareth and the Elven archer Jalila, he goes in search of the source of the threat.

Ailith, the Heir to Riverford, fights her own silent battle. Her father has changed, but her quest to discover what changed him puts her life and very soul in danger and leaves her only one direction in which to turn. Elon.
To preserve the alliance, though, Elon will have to choose between his honor, his duty and everything for which he fought.

Amazon | Goodreads


A Convocation of Kings (The Coming Storm, #2)

 (The Coming Storm, #3 (Novella))

 (The Coming Storm, #4(Novella))


valerie-douglas-001Valerie Douglas is a prolific writer and a genre-crosser, much to the delight of her fans. A fan of authors of almost every genre from Isaac Asimov to Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, she writes classic fantasy, romance, suspense, and as V.J. Devereaux, erotic romance. Who knows what will pop up down the road!

Happily married, she’s companion to two dogs, four cats and an African clawed frog named Hopper who delights in tormenting the cats from his tank.

You can find more information at Valerie Douglas Books, or at Alexandria Publishing Group.

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Thinking ahead

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Jan 072014

2013 was a topsy-turvy year.

I did a lot of things wrong.

I didn’t release a new book.

I didn’t write consistently.

I didn’t utilize my time wisely.

I spent far too much time on Facebook.

I didn’t complete NaNo…all three times I attempted it.

But I also did some things right as well.

I finished a short story for The Alexandria Winter Anthology 2013 (it’s about a werewolf, you should read it!)

I read lots of books on writing theory.

I reconnected with some longtime friends and made some great new ones.

I moved into a great new place in a wonderful neighborhood.

I started back to school.

Yes, you read that last item correctly.

I, a *mumblety-five mother of 3, have started college. Not only that, but I’m pursuing a double major. So maybe with the move and the start of classes I have some excuse for not getting much writing done this year. But I don’t accept that.

Quite frankly, I floundered. I let myself get stifled by fears of not being a good enough writer and the stress of having to produce something publishable.

So looking forward, I give myself permission to suck. I give myself leeway to produce unimaginable garbage only fit for the litter box. I give myself permission to write what I feel like and not what I think I ‘should’ be writing.

What I do not allow myself is permission to not write something. Even if it’s just a blog post like this. I’m writing again.

And it feels good.

Thinking Behind

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Dec 132013
Image via Morguefile

Lately, I’ve been reflecting upon the past year. Things I have done, things I haven’t, things I definitely should have done better.

One of those things is this blog. I need to add content more often. I need to write more short stories. I need to…engage.

I struggle with what to say. There’s only so many times you can whine about stuff before you get sick of yourself. And if you’ve reached that point you’ve already alienated most of your audience.

I see bloggers who post everyday and their posts are so lively and entertaining, and I have no idea how they do it. Most days I’m too tired to do more than stare blankly at the screen while trying desperately to think of something….anything…to say.

So, today I decided I’m going to make a list. It’ll be as long as I can make it with as many ideas for posts I can come up with. And I’ll post at least one them a week.

Does anyone want to help me come up with some? 🙂